Jillian DeCoursey, architect for Jones Whitsett Architects, reviews the proposed high school site plan at the April 11 East Longmeadow School Building Committee community forum.
Reminder Publishing photo by Laura Mason

EAST LONGMEADOW — At the East Longmeadow School Building Committee’s April 11 community forum, multiple residents raised concerns about the availability of tennis courts during the multi-year timeline of the high school project.

At the eighth forum that took place on this project, the meeting began with an update on its current status. Skanska Project Manager Ben Murphy explained to residents that the design development package, containing construction documents for the Massachusetts School Building Authority to review, was submitted on March 29.

Additionally, Fontaine Bros. Inc., the selected construction manager at risk, has been planning out what work can be completed once school is let out for the summer, Murphy stated. This work will help prepare the site for further development and include utility relocation, erosion control and earth work.

Fontaine Bros. Senior Project Manager Jamie Blume later explained the construction schedule in further detail, stating that the enabling work phase was focused on separating the construction from the school’s traffic. This involves changing the horseshoe-shaped road entrance into a parking lot and creating a construction-only entrance.

“[The initial logistics plan is] probably at about 80% right now. We’re trying to nail it down to get things started this summer,” Blume said.

This fall, a new traffic loop will be established following the flow of the current horseshoe loop. Fontaine Bros. will also begin to construct the new high school’s foundation, Blume stated. In spring 2025, outside steel work will begin in addition to interior work on electrical, plumbing and mechanical needs.

During summer 2025, work on the school’s parking, tennis courts, concession building and stadium press box will commence while, in summer 2026, the company will relocate the old building’s furniture into the new building and tear down the old high school, Blume explained. Once the old building is removed, the remaining new sports fields will be installed in time for the project’s final completion in the summer of 2027.

The proposed final site will include individual drop-off areas for parents and buses with safe circulation, outdoor education areas for students and multiple sport fields, including two new softball areas, said Jillian DeCoursey, a member of the design team and architect for Jones Whitsett Architects.

Following Blume’s presentation of the building timeline, longtime East Longmeadow resident and tennis player Michael Myers stepped forward to raise concerns about the length of time that the high school’s tennis courts will be unusable and how this will impact local players. He stated that he represented the school’s varsity players and their families, who made up a large portion of the forum’s audience on April 11.

In his statement, Myers inquired whether the school’s new tennis courts could be constructed sooner in the timeline in order to avoid impacts to teams’ seasons.

In the current plan, three of the six courts will be removed this fall while the other three will be removed in summer 2025. The six courts would then be constructed on another part of the property during the same phase, according to the project’s logistic plan.

With this model, teams will not have access to the full six courts for only one season, Blume explained. He stated that three of the courts needed to be removed immediately due to utilities located beneath them. Furthermore, the final six courts needed to be relocated within the property because their current location would be too close to the new pool building.

“In some of the original phasing plans, we actually would have lost the six courts up front and [in the current plan] we’re structuring the fence line around it to preserve the three,” Fontaine Bros. CEO Dave Fontaine Jr. said. “With the configuration and design as things are, we’re limiting the downtime as much as we can and we’re also replacing the courts as quickly as we can.”

Superintendent Gordon Smith went on to highlight that the School Department was in discussion with the Longmeadow and Hampden-Wilbraham districts to try and coordinate ways to maintain smooth transitions for all impacted sports.

“[Fontaine Bros. is] doing everything that they possibly can to try to keep things online for as long as humanly possible, but we also don’t want to be doing things twice … that obviously starts to increase your budget incredibly,” Smith said.

Town Manager Tom Christensen echoed this, emphasizing that “we have a new high school being built and there’s an implication there and some disruption and we just have to sort of keep our eye on the prize … This [plan] is what’s going to get us the school on budget and on time.”

During the discussion, suggestions were also raised to install temporary tennis courts, use the parking areas for courts and build the courts off the high school campus, but each presented complications that limited its plausibility.

At the end of the forum, School Building Committee member and School Committee Chair Greg Thompson thanked residents for their feedback and stated that the building committee will continue to discuss these concerns moving forward.

lmason@thereminder.com | + posts